Why a Big Shiny Ball is the Unsung Hero of Visible Results

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Welcome to The queue – Your daily distraction from curated video content from across the web. Today we’re watching a video essay on why a shiny metal ball is the secret weapon of modern visual effects.

There’s a kind of truism when it comes to visual effects: they’re often best when you don’t notice them.

For example, when a green screen effect is bad, you become very aware of its presence. And all of that choppy chroma key can break your immersion and get you out of the story. However, if you’ve been looking at a behind-the-scenes feature recently, you know that green screen effects can be found literally everywhere these days, often in the background where large panoramas of city skylines can be seen. This use of green screens enables filmmakers to keep costs down and remain flexible with locations. And for the most part, the audience is no smarter.

There are many sophisticated tools that can make CGI elements feel like an imperceptible, natural part of a real environment. That’s why a huge, shiny metal ball is one of VFX’s unsung heroes. An integral part of a VFX artist toolkit (with several handy digital counterparts), these shiny spheres allow artists to capture the way light looks on the live set so that it looks like that light a digital light convincingly illuminates the object. This is basically a way to quickly take a panorama of a real environment. This data can then be converted into an “ambient lighting model” that allows CGI effects to look like they’re part of the world. The more you know!

Clock “Why visual effects artists love this shiny ball“:

Who did that?

This video is from Vox, an American news website from Vox Media, produced in 2014. They produce videos about news, culture and everything in between. This video is produced by Phil Edwards, with art direction of Estelle Caswell and story editing of Bridgett Henwood. You can subscribe to Vox here on YouTube. And you can follow them here on Twitter.

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